1998 SURVEY RESULTS

CHAPTER 5

1994-1998 TRENDS

Drivers and Vehicles, 1994-1998

There was little appreciable change between 1994 and 1998 in the frequency with which the public age 16 and older drove motor vehicles. As in previous years, more than 90% of the public in 1998 said they drove a motor vehicle, usually almost every day.

TABLE 43.
Driving Frequency, 1994-1998

 Qx: How often do you drive a motor vehicle? Base: Total population age 16+
Driving Frequency 1994 1996 1998
Almost every day 79% 80% 78%
A few days a week 10% 10% 10%
A few days a month 2% 2% 2%
A few days a year 1% 1% 1%
Never 8% 8% 9%

Cars continued to decrease as a proportion of the vehicle fleet. The percentage of persons who answered that their primary vehicle was a sport utility vehicle edged upwards, but a slight change in the wording of the question in 1998 may have contributed to this. Unlike previous years, the term "sport utility vehicle" was included in the stem of the survey question.

TABLE 44.
Type of Primary Vehicle Driven, 1994-1998

 Qx: Is the vehicle you drive most often a car, van, motorcycle, sport utility vehicle, pickup truck, or other type of truck? Base: Drives a motor vehicle
Type of Vehicle 1994 1996 1998
Car 71% 67% 65%
Van/Minivan 9% 9% 10%
Sport Utility Vehicle 3% 5% 8%
Pickup Truck 15% 17% 16%

Type of Driver-Side Seat Belts, 1994-1998

The 1998 survey observed a continued increase in one-piece belt systems. The one-piece manual lap and shoulder system now accounts for 75% of driver seat belts in primary vehicles. The once ubiquitous lap only system now appears in only 2% of all primary vehicles at the driver seating position.

TABLE 45.
Seat Belt Configuration In Front Seat Of Primary Vehicle,
1994-1998

 Qx: Do the seat belts in the front seat of the (vehicle) go across your shoulder only, across your lap only, or across both your shoulder and lap? Qx: Are the shoulder and lap belt one piece or are they two separate belts? Qx: Are both the shoulder and lap belt automatic, is only the shoulder belt automatic or is neither the shoulder or lap belt automatic? Qx: Is the shoulder belt automatic or do you have to fasten it? Base: Vehicle driven most often is not a motorcycle.

Seat Belt Type

1994

1996

1998

Basic Configuration
Shoulder Only 8% 7% 7%
Lap Only 4% 3% 2%
Shoulder And Lap 88% 90% 90%
Type Of Driver Seat Belt
One-Piece Systems [85%] [86%] [88%]
Lap Belt Only 4% 3% 2%
Lap/Shoulder-Manual 70% 72% 75%
Lap/Shoulder-Automatic 3% 4% 4%
Shoulder Only-Manual 7% 6% 6%
Shoulder Only-Automatic 1% 1% 1%
One-Piece-DK If Automatic * * *
Two-Piece Systems [14%] [13%] [12%]
Lap Manual/Shoulder Manual 6% 5% 4%
Lap Manual/Shoulder Automatic 8% 7% 6%
Lap Automatic/Shoulder Automatic 1% 1% 1%
Two-Piece-DK If Automatic * * *
DK If One-Piece Or Two-Piece 1% 1% *
*Less than 0.5%

Driver's Use of Seat Belts, 1994-1998

The public is increasingly reporting that they use seat belts on a regular basis. The percentage of drivers age 16 and older who said that they always used their seat belt while driving has increased 5 percentage points since 1994, from 74% to 79%.

Qx: When driving this (car/truck/van) how often do you wear your (shoulder/lap) belt?
Base: Drivers whose primary vehicle has seat belts.

Although more people reported using seat belts "all the time" in 1998, many of these full time users still indicated that they had not worn their seat belt recently while driving. Ten percent of drivers who said they used their seat belt all of the time acknowledged on a follow-up question that they did not use their seat belt while driving at least once during the past day or week. If anything, this was an increase over 1996 (9%) and 1994 (8%).

Qx: When was the last time you did not wear your seat belt when driving?
Qx: Has there been any occasion in the past 12 months when you did not wear your seat belt (neither lap nor shoulder) when driving?
Base: Drivers whose primary vehicle has seat belts, and said they wore the belts "all the time."
*A follow-up question was added in 1996 asking persons who did not know the last time they failed to wear their seat belt whether or not it occurred in the past year. These persons were then apportioned into the "Year Or More" and "Don't Know/Within Past Year" categories in 1996 and 1998 (thus 1994 was not comparable for these categories).

Reported Changes in Driver Seat Belt Use, 1994-1998

The percentage of drivers who said they increased their seat belt use over the past year has declined sharply since 1994. In 1994, 27% of drivers reported that their use of seat belts while driving in the past twelve months had increased. Only 15% made the same statement in 1998.

Qx: In the past 12 months, has your use of seat belts when driving (car driven most often) increased, decreased, or stayed the same?
Base: Drivers whose primary vehicle has seat belts.

Driving On The Job, 1994-1998

The percentage of drivers who drove on the job was 34% in 1998, compared to 36% in both 1996 and 1994. In 1998, 56% of drivers who said they drove on the job did so almost every day, compared to 54% in 1996 and 56% in 1994.

Qx: Not including driving to and from work, do you at least sometimes drive a vehicle as part of a job or business?
Base: Drives a motor vehicle.

Company Seat Belt Policy, 1994-1998

Drivers who said they drove on the job were asked if their company had a seat belt policy. If they answered "yes," the interviewers then asked them if it was a written policy.

The data showed a drop in 1998 in the percentage of drivers who said their company had a policy requiring seat belt use when driving on the job, declining to fewer than half of all drivers who drove on the job. As in previous years, two-thirds thought it was a written policy.

TABLE 46.
Company Seat Belt Policy -- Written Or Unwritten,
1994-1998

 Qx: Does your company or business have a policy requiring seat belt use when driving on the job? Qx: Is that a written policy? Base: Drivers who drive on the job.
1994 1996 1998
Company Has Policy 52% 53% 48%
Policy Is Written:
Yes 66% 67% 67%
No 25% 24% 25%
Don't Know 9% 9% 8%
Company Doesn't Have Policy 43% 42% 45%
Don't Know If Company Has Policy 5% 5% 6%

Frequency Of Front Seat Passenger Seat Belt Use, 1994-1998

In 1994, only respondents who said they usually sat in the front seat when riding as passengers were asked their frequency of seat belt use in that passenger seating position. Similarly, those who usually sat in the back seat when they rode as passengers were asked only about seat belt use in the back. The later surveys restructured this section so that everyone was asked their seat belt use for each seating position. However, comparisons to 1994 are restricted to seat belt use in the respondent's usual seating position. As shown in Table 47, reported seat belt use on the front passenger side was essentially unchanged from 1996 to 1998 for those who usually rode in that seating position as passengers, although both years were slightly higher than 1994.

Regarding the total population's reported seat belt use as front seat passengers (1996/1998 data), there again was little difference between 1996 and 1998. In 1998, 74% said they used seat belts "all the time" when riding in the front passenger seat, 13% used them most of the time, 6% some of the time, 3% rarely used them , and 4% never used them. The comparable figures for 1996 were 73% all the time, 14% most times, 7% sometimes, 3% rarely, and 3% never.

TABLE 47.
Frequency Wear Seat Belt As Front Seat Passenger
For Those Who Usually Ride In The Front Seat,
1994-1998

 Qx: When you are a passenger, do you usually ride in the front seat or the back seat? Qx: When riding as a passenger in the front seat how often do you wear your seat belt? Base: Usually ride in the front seat when riding as a passenger.
Frequency Of Front Seat Passenger
Seat Belt Use
1994 1996 1998
All Of The Time 69% 73% 74%
Most Of The Time 16% 14% 14%
Some Of The Time 8% 7% 6%
Rarely 4% 3% 3%
Never 4% 3% 4%

Frequency Of Back Seat Passenger Seat Belt Use, 1994-1998

In 1998, there was an increase in reported "all the time" seat belt use in the back seat among persons who usually rode in that seating position. Since there were only slightly more than 250 persons in the sample each year who usually rode in the back seat as passengers, the difference was not statistically significant. However, when the total population was considered (i.e., including those who usually sat in the front as passengers; 1996/1998 data), the same pattern emerged. In 1998, 43% said they wore their seat belt "all the time" when riding in the back compared to 37% in 1996. These latter figures were based on more than 3800 cases per year.

TABLE 48.
Frequency Wear Seat Belt As Back Seat Passenger
For Those Who Usually Ride In The Back Seat,
1994-1998

 Qx: When you are a passenger, do you usually ride in the front seat or the back seat? Qx: When riding as a passenger in the back seat how often do you wear your seat belt? Base: Usually ride in the back seat when riding as a passenger.
Frequency Of Back Seat Passenger
Seat Belt Use
1994 1996 1998
All Of The Time 41% 41% 46%
Most Of The Time 16% 11% 13%
Some Of The Time 12% 18% 15%
Rarely 11% 10% 11%
Never 19% 20% 15%

Most Important Reason For Seat Belt Use By Drivers, 1994-1998

In 1994 and 1996 the interviewers read 6 potential reasons for seat belt use to the respondents. They asked the respondents which of the reasons applied to them (they could choose more than one, and could volunteer "other" reasons as well), and then asked which single reason did the respondent consider the most important. In 1998 two additional reasons were included to the list. Despite the revision there was little appreciable change in the "most important" reason given. About two-thirds of the drivers continued to identify safety as their most important reason for wearing seat belts.

TABLE 49.
Most Important Reason For Seat Belt Use:
Drivers, 1994-1998

 Qx: Of the following reasons you just gave me for wearing your seat belt, which is the most important ? Base: Drivers whose primary vehicle has seat belts, and who at least on occasion wear their seat belt.
Reason 1994 996 1998
I want to avoid serious injury. 68% 68% 66%
It's the law. 8% 8% 7%
It's a habit. 7% 6% 6%
I want to set a good example for others. NA NA 5%
I don't want to get a ticket. 4% 3% 3%
I'm uncomfortable without it. 3% 3% 3%
Others want me to wear it. 2% 2% 1%
The people I'm with are wearing seat belts. NA NA *
Other 6% 7% 4%
All important, can't select just one. 2% 2% 3%
*Less than 0.5%

Most Important Reason For Non-Use Of Seat Belts By Drivers, 1994-1998

The interviewers approached the reasons for non-use in the same manner they did the reasons for use (described on the previous page). The respondents were read eight reasons for non-use in each of the three years. The only change in 1998 was a revision in wording for one item: "because of the people I am with" became "the people I am with are not wearing seat belts." Table 50 shows little difference in the overall response between 1996 and 1998.

TABLE 50.
Most Important Reason For Not Wearing A Seat Belt:
Drivers, 1994-1998

 Qx: Of the following reasons you just gave me for not wearing your seat belt, which is the most important? Base: Drivers whose primary vehicle has seat belts, and who at least on occasion do not wear their seat belt.
Reason 1994 1996 1998
I forget to put it on. 24% 23% 24%
I'm only driving a short distance. 17% 24% 22%
The seat belt is uncomfortable. 10% 10% 12%
I'm in a rush. 7% 7% 8%
The probability of being in a crash is too low. 3% 4% 4%
I'm driving in light traffic. 2% 2% 2%
I don't want my clothes to get wrinkled. 2% 1% 1%
The people I'm with are not wearing seat belts. 1% 1% 1%
Other 7% 9% 7%
None of these reasons. 22% 16% 17%
All are important, can't select just one. 3% 3% 2%

Drivers Who Dislike Or Find Something Annoying About Seat Belts, 1994-1998

All drivers, regardless of whether or not they wore their seat belts regularly, were asked if there was anything that they particularly disliked or found annoying about wearing their seat belt. Slightly fewer drivers in 1998 (36%) than in 1996 (38%) or in 1994 (40%) answered "yes." This was true for both males and females. Choking or pressure across the neck continued to be the single most frequent complaint.

Qx: Is there anything that you particularly dislike or find annoying about wearing your seat belt?
Base: Drives a motor vehicle that has seat belts.

Advertising Awareness, The Crash Dummies, 1994-1998

Public service announcements about seat belt use in which Vince and Larry, the crash dummies, were the central characters have been an important part of the U.S. Department of Transportation's efforts to encourage the public to wear seat belts. The 1998 survey found a decrease in reported exposure to these messages. While 83% of the public recalled seeing or hearing advertisements that used crash dummies, only 70% of these persons associated the crash dummy advertisements with a seat belt message, a smaller percentage than in previous years. This equated to 58% of the public in 1998 who recalled crash dummy ads with a seat belt message, compared to more than 60% in 1996 and 1994.

Qx: Have you seen or heard any advertisements that used crash dummies?
Qx: Could you tell me what advice or message the crash dummies advertised?
Base: Total population age 16+<

Support For Seat Belt Laws That Apply To The Front Seat, 1994-1998

Seat belt laws have been enacted throughout the country to increase seat belt use. In both 1996 and 1998, 86% of the public said they favored seat belt laws for drivers and front seat passengers (versus 84% in 1994). However, those who strongly favored the law increased slightly in 1998, from 63% to 67%.

Qx: How do you feel about laws that require drivers and front seat passengers to wear seat belts? Do you favor these laws a lot, do you favor them some, or do you not favor these laws at all?
Base: Total population age 16+

Support For Seat Belt Laws That Apply To Both The Front And Back Seats, 1994-1998

Of the 86% who favored front seat laws in 1998, 78% also favored having seat belt laws apply to the back seat, which translated into 67% who favored laws applicable to both the front and back seats. This compared to 64% in 1996.

Qx: How do you feel about laws that require drivers and front seat passengers to wear seat belts? Do you favor these laws a lot, do you favor them some or do you not favor these laws at all?
Qx: Do you think that seat belt laws should also apply to back seat adult passengers?
Base: Total population age 16+

Support For Fines And Points, 1994-1998

The level of public support for fines and points as sanctions for violating seat belt laws has largely stayed the same since 1994, with about twice as many persons supporting fines as supporting points.

Qx: Do you favor or oppose fines for drivers who do not wear seat belts?
Qx: Do you favor or oppose receiving points against a license as a penalty for seat belt violations?
Base: Total population age 16+

Likely Reaction To Receiving Seat Belt Ticket, 1994-1998

The interviewers asked the respondents which of the following would be their more likely reaction to receiving a seat belt ticket: that they deserved the ticket because they broke the law, or that they did not deserve the ticket because wearing a seat belt should be a personal choice. The public has changed very little in their response to this question, although the movement has been toward feeling the ticket was deserved.

Qx: Suppose you get a ticket for not wearing your seat belt. Which of the following statements better describes your likely reaction? I deserve the ticket because I broke the law, or I do NOT deserve the ticket because wearing a seat belt should be a personal choice.
Base: Total population age 16+

Believe Their State Has A Seat Belt Law, 1994-1998

The interviewers asked all respondents if their State had a law requiring seat belt use. The response did not change across the three years of the survey; 94% believed there was a seat belt law. During the 1994 survey, 47 States had seat belt laws that applied to adults. In 1996 and 1998, 49 States had such laws.

Qx: Does (STATE) have a law requiring seat belt use?
Base: Total population age 16+

Knowledge of Standard Versus Secondary Enforcement, 1994-1998

At the time of the 1994 survey, 9 States had seat belt laws that permitted standard enforcement, where law enforcement officers could stop a vehicle on the basis of observing a seat belt violation. The number increased to 11 in 1996 and 14 in 1998. Over the same period of time, the survey showed an increase in the percentage of the public who believed that their State law included standard enforcement provisions. Among persons who believed their State had a seat belt law, 58% thought that the law provided for standard enforcement in 1998 compared to 49% in 1994.

Qx: According to your State law, can police stop a vehicle if they observe a seat belt violation, or do they have to observe some other offense first in order to stop the vehicle?
Base: Believe their State has a seat belt law.

Support For Standard Enforcement, 1996-1998

The 1996 survey introduced a question which asked if law enforcement officers should be allowed to stop a motor vehicle if they observed a seat belt violation but no other law was being broken. Support for the standard enforcement provision was 52% in 1996, and increased to 58% in 1998.

Qx: In your opinion, should police be allowed to stop a vehicle if they observe a seat belt violation when no other traffic laws are being broken?
Base: Total population age 16+

Ever Received A Seat Belt Ticket Or Warning, 1994-1998

The percentage of the population who reported that they never had received a seat belt ticket or warning did not change from two years earlier, remaining at 88%.

Qx: Did you receive a ticket for violating seat belt laws?
Qx: Did you receive a warning for violating seat belt laws?
Qx: Have you ever received a ticket for not wearing seat belts?
Qx: Have you ever received a warning for not wearing seat belts?
Base: Total population age 16+

Perceived Likelihood Of Being Ticketed, 1994-1998

In 1998, more drivers (18%) than in the previous surveys (13% and 15%) believed that they were very likely to receive a seat belt ticket if they did not wear a seat belt at all while driving over the next six months. In total, 39% of drivers expressed some level of agreement that they would be ticketed compared to 33% in 1996 and 37% in 1994. At the same time, the majority (56%) continued to view this as unlikely.

Qx: Assume that you do not wear your seat belt AT ALL while driving over the next six months. How likely do you think you will be to receive a ticket for not wearing a seat belt?
Base: Drives a motor vehicle.

Level Of Support For Enforcing Seat Belt Laws, 1994-1998

The percentage of the public who believed that police should give tickets at every opportunity when it comes to enforcing seat belt laws increased 5 percentage points from 1996 to 1998. The public's general response in 1998 was similar to the results of the 1994 survey, with the mean score on the 10-point scale being virtually the same for both years.

Qx: How often do you think police should ticket for seat belt violations? On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 means police should hardly ever give tickets and 10 means police should give tickets at every opportunity when it comes to enforcing seat belt laws, how strict should police enforcement be?
Base: Total population age 16+
*The means exclude respondents in the Don't Know/Refused category